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On some UIs, I can press and hold a button and move the mouse away and it stays pushed down.

On other UIs, buttons pop back up when I hold and drag out.

Which is the most user-friendly behavior?

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    In both of those conditions, what is the result when you release the mouse button? – Evil Closet Monkey Jan 31 at 21:38
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I think that leaving the button area should cancel the button action. So moving the mouse away from the pressed button should reflect the cancellation poping back up the button.

  • I agree with this completely. I think a button should only activate if I mouse down and up without leaving the button area. Consider the opposite, a button shouldn’t activate if I mouse down off of the button area, move to the area, and release. It needs to be a complete action. – zero298 Feb 1 at 3:44
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I am not sure if there is a winner here. A button needs to do 'something'. Open a link, modal, slide down a panel and so on. If the UI still indicates a 'press down' when the mouse is not directly on top of it, it should do the same thing as if someone had just rolled over it and activated it. Don't forget, for the web anyhow, a lot of traffic is from a mobile, in which hover events do not exist anyway. (Minus the exception for :focus)

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